Deciphering Needle Hieroglyphics

Many customers ordering more needles for their sewing machines, look at a needle sleeve such as the one above and say to us,
“Which numbers do you want me to read?”
Uh, all of them. Though the fact is, only a few are important. Most of the numbers on a needle box are just aliases. In the old days when sewing machines were new, many different brands would use the same needle but the manufacturers wanted you to buy needles only from them, so they’d give the needles sent with their machines a unique code even though they were a common needle. Eventually this was figured out and all the needle companies started printing the various codes on each box, making it seem way more complicated than it is. But it is still a bit complicated, because there is a great variety of needles available. Know the following few things and you are way ahead of the game:
1. There are three main features of a needle: SYSTEM –SIZE – POINT.
The SYSTEM is a code that identifies the main specifications of the needle – its overall length, length of the shaft, diameter of the butt or shank (the part that fits into the needle bar), the configuration of the scarf (the cut-out part above the eye where the thread loops) and so forth. Typical systems, for example, are 135×17 or 16×257 or 251LG. In the above example, all the codes below “134LR” are different codes for that very same system.
The SIZE is how thick the shaft of the needle is (the part that pokes down into the fabric). There are several sizing methods. The most common are METRIC and SINGER. In the above example, the size is indicated by 130 (metric) and 21 (Singer). A smaller size would be 110/18 and a larger one would be 140/22. Most needles used for sewing apparel will be in the range from about 75/10 to 110/18 and larger sizes would be used for sewing upholstery, canvas, and other heavier applications. The size of the eye increases with the size of the needle, so smaller needles take lighter threads and thicker needles take heavier threads.
The POINT is either going to be ROUND (sharp), BALL POINT (blunted), or CUTTING POINT (diamond, wedge, tri-point, and so on). Round point is used for most woven fabrics. Ball point is used on knits, so as not to cut the strands of the weave and create a run. Cutting points are designed to slice through dense materials like leather or vinyl. That’s the kind of needle shown above. The point style is LR/RTW which creates a slightly slanted stitch. Special points are getting harder to come by as the needle manufacturers only want to make high volume needles. Stock up.
2. Nearly all home sewing machine needles are the same system: 15X1.
That system has many aliases, such as 705H, 130R, HAX1, PFX130.
3. Just because you know your machine make and model, we can’t guarantee giving you the right needle.
A huge number of machines operating these days are decades old, some nearly a century old, and have gone through multiple owners. Often, a good mechanic working on a machine and lacking the right needle will adjust the needle bar and timing to whatever needles he has in his toolbox. Once that happens, it’s anybody’s guess what needle that machine takes. Measurements are often misleading, too. So whenever you acquire a machine, make sure you know what needle it uses and write it in permanent ink on the head. And don’t throw away any old needle sleeves or boxes that might be in the drawer.
4. Industrial Sewing Machine Needles are sold per hundred per size.
With very rare exception. With the huge variety of needles the market still demands, we can’t afford to have all those broken packs taking up inventory capital.
5. Thread & needle breakage is often caused by too much needle heat.
In demanding sewing jobs where the needle is passing through thick or dense material, the needle will get hot and in turn heat up the thread, making it brittle and sometimes even overheating the steel in the needle. The first thing you should try to solve this problem is lubricating the thread with silicone. Needles are also sold with a Teflon coating or using Titanium steel for this purpose, but they are relatively expensive so try the silicone first.
6. There are only four major needle brands left – Groz-Beckert, Orange, Organ, and Schmetz.
Many brands have bit the dust in recent years including Beka, Lammertz, Muva, Singer, Top, and Torrington, among others. And a German needle name no longer means a German needle. They are made all over the place. We carry all the major brands, but there are too many to show all the different systems, sizes, and point and finish styles on our website. So if you don’t find what you are looking for there, drop us an email with as much information and/or a picture of your needle box, and we’ll get you fixed up.
Click for: Groz-BeckertOrangeOrganSchmetz
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